WASHINGTON, DC - Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer spoke on the House Floor today in favor of the Iraq resolution that expresses support for our troops and opposition to the President's proposal to escalate troops in Iraq. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, three months ago, the American people sent a resounding message for change. They voted for a new direction in our nation - including a new direction for the war in Iraq, which will enter its fifth year next month. This week, on this House Floor, the Members of this great body can demonstrate that we not only have heard the voters' message but also that we have the collective will to send one of our own.
"The bipartisan resolution before us asks the Members one straight-forward question: Do you approve of the President's proposal to deploy more than 20,000 additional troops in Iraq or not? Thus, this resolution is a clarifying moment for the Members to say precisely where they stand on the President's plan.
"There is little doubt that our Iraq policy is failing, not succeeding. Even our Commander in Chief, President Bush, acknowledged on this Floor last month during his State of the Union Address that: "Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure."
"Yet, after nearly four years at war, after more than 3,100 of our finest sons and daughters have given the ultimate measure of sacrifice in Iraq, after more than 25,000 have been wounded, after the expenditure of more than $400 billion on this war effort by the American taxpayer, our success seems more remote than ever.
"Not surprisingly, two-thirds of the American people oppose the President's escalation plan. So do many current and former senior military officials. Even Prime Minister Maliki has expressed his disapproval.
"I oppose the President's plan for several reasons. First, we simply cannot ignore the many miscalculations made by the Administration about this war - from sending too few troops, to grossly underestimating the costs, to failing to properly plan for the post-war period. The President repeatedly said that his policies were working. He was wrong - just as he is wrong today, in my view, about this escalation.
"Second, this troop escalation does not represent a new strategy. In fact, we have tried at least four escalations in the past, none of which succeeded in quelling violence. The time for more troops was four years ago. But the fact is, our commitment of forces has never been commensurate with the risk, as stated by the President. And now, unfortunately, what the President promises is too little, too late.
"Third, we cannot disregard the deep skepticism and warnings of our military leaders. General Abizaid, for example, has stated that "more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future." Former Secretary of State Powell has stated, "I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing the communitarian violence, this civil war, will work." And even Senator McCain, who supports the President's escalation, nonetheless said last week: "I don't think it enhances our chances for succeeding in Iraq."
"It is obvious that there is not a military solution to the violence in Iraq. We need a diplomatic surge, and a surge of Iraqi responsibility. We must implement an aggressive diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond. The Iraqis must take the lead on security and the mission of American forces must shift from combat to counter-terrorism, training and logistics. And, we must begin the responsible redeployment of our forces.
"Now, let me close by urging Members to disregard the arguments of those who seek to mischaracterize this resolution.
"Some say that this resolution will demoralize our troops. Yet, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Pace, says otherwise.
"Some say this resolution has not received adequate consideration. Yet, in the first six weeks of this new Congress, we have held 52 House and Senate hearings on Iraq. And, Chairman Lantos has announced that he will hold a full committee hearing on all resolutions related to Iraq in March.
"Some say that this resolution is merely symbolic. To them, I simply say that the bipartisan expression of the will of this House, when it mirrors the views of the vast majority of Americans, cannot be casually ignored.
"Some say that this resolution signals retreat in the war on terror. As one who absolutely wants to prevail in the war on terror, let me say: Continuing to support failed strategies weakens our efforts in the war on terror. Furthermore, our failure to implement an effective strategy in Iraq has clearly resulted in encouraging and enhancing the ability of terrorists to recruit and to spread their twisted ideology.
"Finally, some assert that this resolution is a first step to de-funding our troops in the field. This is categorically false. While the new Majority will explore other opportunities to affect Iraq policy, our commitment to our men and women in harm's way is unwavering.
"Mr. Speaker, there is not a Member of this body who does not pray for our nation's success in Iraq. Our brave servicemen and women have performed there with valor and honor. They have done everything that a grateful nation has asked of them since the beginning of this war. We will not abandon them.
"This is a critical moment in our nation's war effort in Iraq. The President's policy is failing and his most recent proposal promises more of the same. This resolution is a first step in our attempt to forge a new direction in Iraq. I urge the Members to support it."